Dec. 30, 2011 at 3:35 PM ET
A man expecting to find only green beans in a can of Winn-Dixie Brand Italian Green Beans was surprised this week to find a whole, in-shell peanut mixed in with the vegetables.
The discovery sparked a flurry of activity at the Florida-based grocery chain, which quickly issued a recall for 14.5-ounce cans of the beans with a best-buy date of September 2014.
“We are conducting a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the peanut contamination in order to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future,” Mary Kellmanson, Winn-Dixie Stores Inc.'s group vice president of marketing, said in a statement.
The manufacturer that produces green beans for Winn-Dixie also cans boiled peanuts using some of the same machinery, spokesman Eric Barnes said.
The mix-up is particularly concerning to people with peanut allergies, who could suffer serious, even fatal reactions to peanut-tainted beans.
So far, however, no one has reported illness, placing this recall in the category of industrial food mistakes that don’t appear to result in tragedy. In a year that saw sickness and deaths from foods including whole cantaloupe, ground turkey and sprout seeds, there were some simply odd recalls as well.
Take the goof-up that occurred in mid-November, when Diamond Crystal Brands Inc. of Savannah, Ga., issued a recall of 12-ounce GFS canisters that were supposed to be filled with sugar, but were actually filled with non-dairy coffee creamer.
Or the mistake that led to the recall of 875 pounds of center-cut steaks made by Chef’s Requested Foods Inc. of Oklahoma City. Retailers expected 10-ounce, bacon-wrapped prime steaks, but actually received -- turkey filets. The official reason for the recall was undeclared allergens of wheat and soy, not grumbling over missing out on a good dinner.
Other notable mix-ups this year included a recall in February of 15,760 pounds of frozen chicken and steak fajitas manufactured by Phil’s Fresh Foods Inc. of Boulder, Colo. The 7-ounce cartons of fire-grilled fajitas were pulled back because some steak packs might have included chicken and some chicken packs included steak.
Such mistakes may seem minor, especially compared with the massive bulk of food products that are packaged correctly. But Kantha Shelke, a food scientist and spokeswoman for the Institute of Food Technologists, said they reveal potentially lax production or training protocols and could lead to serious problems for consumers.
“The food business is a really serious business. What you are making is going into people’s bodies,” she said. “No mistake is a small mistake.”